A disease of the inner ear
Meniere’s disease is a condition in which there is an excess of fluid in the inner ear. The excess fluid disturbs the ear’s balance and hearing mechanisms and produces a range of symptoms:
- vertigo (a form of dizziness where your surroundings appear to spin)
- tinnitus (an abnormal ringing noise inside the ear)
- fluctuating hearing loss
- a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear due to fluid build-up
Attacks of vertigo usually occur in clusters with varying periods of remission (from days to years) between attacks. Vertigo attacks can occur without any warning and you cannot predict how severe the vertigo will be or how long it will last.
Tinnitus, distorted hearing and pressure in the ear often occur in conjunction with the vertigo. In the early stages of the condition, hearing returns to normal levels following an attack, but as the disease progresses measurable and permanent hearing loss occurs.
Estimates vary but around 90% of people with Meniere’s have the disease in only one ear when first diagnosed. Around 50% of these may go on to develop the disease in both ears.
Who gets Meniere’s?
Meniere’s disease affects one in every 600 Australians. It appears that Meniere’s is diagnosed around late thirties to early fifties. It is uncommon for children to be diagnosed. Unfortunately this is a time of life when people are busy with family and careers.
Currently there is no known medical cure for Meniere’s. The condition can however be managed to some degree through medication, diet, stress reduction, exercise programs, natural therapies and as a last resort, surgery.
There are treatment options for the acute attack of vertigo as well as options for the symptoms experienced and prevention of further attacks.